CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Forestry plans to lay off 37 employees by the end of the month, after lawmakers rejected a proposal to restore $1.7 million to the agency.
The workers regulate logging companies, manage timber and fight forest fires. The 37 employees make up about a third of the agency’s workforce.
“To be honest with you, my heart broke,” said Jack Spencer, one of the foresters who received a layoff notice Wednesday. “I love West Virginia, and I’ve always loved what I do. To be jerked around like this — it’s hard to take.”
Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a severance tax hike on the timber industry, but the increase was lower than Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s proposal to fully fund the Division of Forestry. The timber industry opposed the higher severance tax.